This coming of age story is a quick read, and in fact Meg Rosoff has previously published in the young adult category. This one straddles the line between young adult and adult fiction. Nearing 100 years old, Hilary looks back upon his life and the time he spent in the 1960’s at St. Oswald’s, a private school for boys with a “long history and low standards.” Having managed to get himself expelled from several other schools, his parents half-heartedly hope that this time Hilary will make something of himself.
Gloomy Victorian buildings, vile food (pink sausages, green liver, brown stew, cabbage boiled to stinking transparency), and an undistinguished faculty do not bode well for Hilary’s success in turning his life around. Then one day, while engaging in a fitness run along the beach with his classmates, Hilary falls behind and comes upon a cottage on the beach inhabited by a boy named Finn. What follows is something of a love story, though not so much physical love as romantic. Hilary becomes infatuated with Finn, devising ways to slip away from school and spend time with him, desperately trying to gain the affection of the elusive Finn, who lives a solitary Robinson Crusoe style life alone on the nearly inaccessible beach. A touching story of first love with a surprising twist at the end.